People in positions of power and authority have a moral and political responsibility to improve understanding across borders and cultures, top United Nations officials said opening a day-long General Assembly forum on the promotion of a ‘culture of peace.’
At UN Headquarters in New York, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a high-level forum to discuss the implementation of the UN Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace that in a world of profound challenges, religious leaders, public office-holders and others must set an example by rejecting violence and promoting dialogue.
“This is a moment in history when we need a culture of peace – not just the absence of war, but a fully formed culture of peace – so that we can pull together as a single human family to meet our shared challenges,” he said, adding that a culture of peace permeates the work of the UN from the principles of the Charter to the universal rights that the Organization upholds.
Mr. Eliasson also stressed the importance of focusing on human beings – the men, women and children – and not just larger constructs, such as cultures, faiths and nations.
“When we do not see the person and find only the proverbial ‘other’, we are on a treacherous course toward polarization, dehumanization, and worse,” the deputy UN chief said.
He also stressed that a culture of peace should have tangible meanings for people suffering extreme poverty and exclusion, particularly as the UN completes its 1,000 days of action towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and establishes a post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
Also addressing the event, General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic urged the international community to foster harmony amongst religions in the age of sustainable development – “a time of growing interdependence and multiplying challenges” that integrate economic, social and economic issues.
As well as actions to promote sustainable economic and social development, Mr. Jeremic also noted the importance of education in shifting attitudes towards tolerance and understanding of others.
Adopted by the Assembly in 1999, the UN Programme of Action on Culture of Peace prioritizes education, in particular actions that foster peace through education – such as ensuring that children, from an early age, benefit from instruction on values and attitudes to enable them to resolve any dispute peacefully.
At last year’s High-Level Debate on the Culture of Peace, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched his ‘Education First’ global initiative to bring together a partnership to give every child the chance to attend school.
Each year since the adoption of the Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace in 1999, as well as a related Declaration, the Assembly has adopted a resolution on the topic, proclaiming the year 2000 as the ‘International Year for the Culture of Peace,’ and the period of 2001-2010 as the ‘International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World.’